The latest accusations against Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., surrounding his knowledge of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge are “just a game of gotcha,” the governor said Monday night.
“Did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes, did I authorize it, did I know about it, did I approve it? Unequivocally no,” Christie told Trenton, N.J., radio station WKXW-FM in an episode of the monthly program “Ask the Governor.”
Last week, the attorney for the former Port Authority official who oversaw the closures said that "evidence exists" proving that Christie knew about the lane closures as they were happening.
The governor said Monday it's possible he saw some media coverage of the September lane closures and subsequent traffic jam. However, he said, "whether I read any of those -- if I did, or heard anything about traffic -- it would not have been meaningful to me.” Traffic problems, he added, are “not something that rises to the gubernatorial level.”
Christie’s political team initially responded by attacking the character of David Wildstein, Port Authority official who resigned after the scandal broke. In a mass email to supporters and pundits over the weekend, the governor’s team said Wildstein, “will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.”
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It’s unclear how the scandal will unfold as investigations into the lane closures continue. The U.S. attorney’s office is probing the Christie administration, as is the New Jersey state legislature. After issuing 20 subpoenas on the matter, a special legislative investigative committee said Monday that it has started to receive the documents requested.Christie said his office did not ask for an extended deadline for submitting documents and has started producing them to the legislative committee on a rolling basis. He added that he has not seen any documents that were produced by anyone else.
Still, not all the documents the committee requested have been produced yet. An attorney for Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, said in a letter over the weekend that his client is refusing to respond to a subpoena he received, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. Bridget Anne Kelly, another key figure in the scandal, is similarly refusing to cooperate, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports.
“I would hope that people would share information with us, but I also understand they have rights... They have constitutional rights like everybody else, and if they’re going to exercise them, there’s nothing I can do about that,” Christie said in response to the news.
What seemed to be a poorly planned lane closure to conduct a traffic study in September exploded into a full-blown scandal last month after a series of communications between a Christie aide and two of his political appointees to the Port Authority became public. The email and text messages suggested that Bridget Anne Kelly, one of Christie’s three deputy chiefs of staff, ordered the lane closures for political reasons.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote in an Aug. 13 message to Wildstein. "Got it," Wildstein.
Christie said Monday night, “I still don’t know whether there was a traffic study.”
There was evidence of a traffic study, he said, such as tabulations of wait times on the bridge. “Did this start as a traffic study that then morphed into some political shenanigans?” Christie asked, or visa versa.There is at least one bright spot on the horizon for Christie: he has been invited to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference next month. Last year, the American Conservative Union declined to extend an invitation because many Republicans viewed Christie as having been insufficiently conservative, especially when he collaborated and appeared with President Obama to coordinate Superstorm Sandy relief just days before the 2012 election.